For the past five years, since course-correcting his career after the ill-advised misfire Tooth Fairy — we’re not even going to link to a trailer, that’s how much we wish it never existed — Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has been deploying his brand of hypermasculinity as a franchise flick MVP. Just after going the revenge-thriller route in the minor-if-enjoyable Driven, Johnson joined the cast of Fast Five, the fifth Fast and the Furious outing.
By that point, the Fast movies were running short on horsepower — detours to Miami and Japan hadn’t done it any favors and even though 2009’s article-free Fast and Furious made $363 million worldwide, it was viewed as something of a disappointment. Enter The Rock, who strode into every scene glistening with sweat, coated in spray-on Under Armor, throbbing like an artery looking for a boner to fill. Fast Five pulled down almost twice as much — $626 million worldwide — recasting Johnson as Man to Get When Your Series Needs Help. Fast and Furious 6 made $788 million around the globe. Even the godawful G.I. Joe: Retaliation made $375 million worldwide on Johnson’s shoulders.
The lesson being: The Rock is so manly he can bend the will of audiences with his sheer presence.
So it’s with great interest that one watches this short clip, of His Masculine Majesty lip-syncing to Taylor Swift:
Put aside the fact that A) Spike TV is still an actual network and B) they’re doing a whole show based around/stolen from the Jimmy Fallon lip-sych battle thing that’s C) hosted by LL Cool J. There is The Rock shaking his groove thing to “Shake it Off.” (The episode will air on April 2, if you’re circling-a-date-on-a-calendar curious.)
The new breed of action stars seem a little freer with their perceived maleness than the generations before.
Vin Diesel likes himself some Beyonce:
While Chris Pratt knows his way around a French Braid:
But neither of those guys are the GIANT SLAB OF WALKING DUDENESS that The Rock is. And yet, there he is. And it is a good thing because it reeks not of desperation, the way dressing up in a tutu for Tooth Fairy did, but of confidence. Of the fact that masculinity can be like a classic sports car: sure, it looks good on the showroom floor, all buffed up and shiny. But if you don’t take it out for a drive, it’s not living up to its fullest potential.
What good is it knowing who you are — and being able to bench-press a Volkswagen — if you can’t fake-sing whenever the hell you want to?
Marc Bernardin is the Deputy Editor of Playboy.com. He once saw Dwayne Johnson melt all of the food in the frozen aisle of a Los Angeles supermarket.